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Indeed, the only specifically aesthetic quality mentioned here is “taste.” The remaining virtues might be said to have a theological ground, resting on the ability to overcome pride.
Pope’s personal life was also afflicted by disease: he was a hunchback, only four and a half feet tall, and suffered from tuberculosis.
He was in constant need of his maid to dress and care for him.
15), and while he recognizes that some critics are failed poets (l. 120–123) Perhaps ironically, Pope’s advice here seems modern insofar as he calls for a knowledge of all aspects of the author’s work, including not only its subject matter and artistic lineage but also its religious, national, and intellectual contexts.
105), he points out that both the best poetry and the best criticism are divinely inspired: Both must alike from Heav’n derive their Light, These that criticism itself is an art and must be governed by the same rules that apply to literature itself. He is less modern in insisting that the critic base his interpretation on the author’s intention: “In ev’ry Work regard the Writer’s ” (ll. Pope specifies two further guidelines for the critic.
Notwithstanding such social and personal obstacles, Pope produced some of the finest verse ever written.
His most renowned publications include several mock-heroic poems such as (1733–1734) was a scathing attack on human arrogance or pride in failing to observe the due limits of human reason, in questioning divine authority and seeking to be self-reliant on the basis of rationality and science.
However, there are a number of precepts he advances as specific to criticism. The first is to recognize the overall unity of a work, and thereby to avoid falling into partial assessments based on the author’s use of poetic conceits, ornamented language, and meters, as well as those which are biased toward either archaic or modern styles or based on the reputations of given writers.
Apart from knowing his own capacities, the critic must be conversant with every aspect of the author whom he is examining, including the author’s . Finally, a critic needs to possess a moral sensibility, as well as a sense of balance and proportion, as indicated in these lines: “Nor in the must ever join” (ll. In the interests of good nature and good sense, Pope urges the critic to adopt not only habits of self-criticism and integrity (“with pleasure own your Errors past, / And make each Day a on the last,” ll. To be truthful is not enough, he warns; truth must be accompanied by “Good Breeding” or else it will lose its effect (ll. And mere bookish knowledge will often express itself in showiness, disdain, and an overactive tongue: “on his Side? 631–642) As we read through this synthesis of the qualities of a good critic, it becomes clear that they are primarily attributes of humanity or moral sensibility rather than aesthetic qualities.
To begin with, Pope is not merely delineating the scope and nature of good literary criticism; in doing this, he redefines classical virtues in terms of an exploration of nature and wit, as necessary to both poetry and criticism; and this restatement of classicism is itself situated within a broader reformulation of literary history, tradition, and religion.
Above all, these three endeavors are pursued in the form of a : the form of the work exemplifies and enacts much of its overt “meaning.” And its power far exceeds its paraphrasable meaning: this power rests on the poetic effects generated by its own enactment of classical literary dispositions and its own organic unity.